Oregon State Football Preview: Week Four vs Oregon

In this file photo from 2019, OSU redshirt sophomore quarterback Tristan Gebbia (#3) throws a pass while under pressure from UO freshman defensive tackle Brandon Dorlus (#97) in Autzen Stadium. This season, Gebbia was able to get his revenge in a 41-38 win over the Oregon Ducks.

Brady Akins, Sports Editor

Fresh off the heels of their first win of the 2020 season, the Oregon State Beavers are looking to carry their newfound momentum into their toughest challenge yet– a rivalry meeting with the ninth-ranked Oregon Ducks.

When these two in-state rivals face-off, it will be the meeting of two familiar foes who have taken two different kinds of journeys en route to each team’s fourth game of the season. For the Ducks, the year was a quick starter, getting off on the right foot in a 35-14 win at home over the Stanford Cardinal. Since then, it’s been two more wins for Oregon as part of a 3-0 start.

The Beavers, however, have not shared the same luxury of an unblemished beginning to the year. Oregon State dropped their first game of the year in a 38-28 loss to Washington State, before losing 27-21 to Washington the following week for an 0-2 beginning to 2020. But the fates of both teams might have taken steps in opposite directions following their third games.

For Oregon State, that third game held a win, their first of the year. A 31-27 victory over the California Golden Bears where the Beavers managed big plays on all three phases of the game. From a 75-yard touchdown from junior running back Jermar Jefferson, to a blocked punt from sophomore wide receiver Jesiah Irish, to a game-sealing interception on the Golden Bears final drive from junior linebacker John McCartan. With the big plays helping the Beavers get into the win column, the conference win could potentially help spark Oregon State’s season going forward.

Once Oregon State got their first conference win in 2019, a 48-31 win over UCLA, the tides of another slow starting Beavers season began to turn. The team managed just one win prior to that PAC-12 victory, a 45-7 win over Cal Poly from the FCS, while their other three games resulted in losses. But Oregon State managed to recover after that first conference win, and put together a 5-7 record that ended up as the program’s best since hitting that same mark in 2014.

But while the Beavers might be finding their stride, their opponent might have taken a step back, as the Ducks’ 38-35 win over the UCLA Bruins marked the first time this season that a team got within 14 points of beating Oregon. The Ducks were outgained on offense, and struggled to contain a UCLA attack that relied heavily on the running game.

Oregon State, much like the Bruins, have an offense that looks frequently to move the ball on the ground. Led by Jefferson, the Beavers’ star out of the backfield who currently leads the PAC-12 in total rushing yards with 449, Oregon State is coming off of a team effort that included 205 yards on the ground at 6.8 yards per carry, both season-bests for the Beavers.

But much like the Beavers, Oregon’s offense has found success throughout the year in moving the ball on the ground. Two of the team’s running backs, junior’s CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, both rank in the top seven among the conferences rushing leaders, while sophomore quarterback Tyler Shough is currently sixth in rushing yards in the conference and first among quarterbacks.

In order to slow down the Ducks’ three-headed rushing monster, they will need to have a game closer to their effort against the Golden Bears than either of their first two games. After giving up more than 220 yards on the ground in both of their first two games, the Beavers held Cal to just 124 yards in the running game.

In fact, Oregon State’s defense took a step forward in a few different ways in their third game of the season. The Beavers forced more interceptions, created more tackles for loss and sacked the quarterback more against the Golden Bears than at any point in the season.

To come out with a win against the Ducks, an offense ranked first in the conference in yards per game and second in points per game, Oregon State will need to build on the momentum they built in their first win of the season. Whether or not they can do it will be seen on Friday, Nov. 28 when the Beavers kickoff against the Oregon Ducks at 4:00 p.m. at Reser Stadium.